Spare Key is a relatively new, small, laid-back gem of a bar tucked away above Cook & Collins, a New American restaurant in Midtown. The bar is upscale but accessible, with tasteful decorations and friendly bartenders, while booths and sofas offer ample seating area for groups. Ask the bartenders for their latest inventions or choose from the “drink the States” game – the winner gets a drink named after them. Every month, they have an event featuring drinks inspired by different cities and countries around the world. Try the Hemingway Daiquiri or the Classic Margarita, which are said to be the best drinks at the bar. Happy hour starts at 5:00 pm and runs until 7:00 pm.
2416 Brazos St, Ste C, Houston, TX 77006 +1 (832) 701-1973
This Houston classic is a fun, down-to-earth establishment known for its mixology and experienced bartenders. It has a bit of a refuge vibe, with ample seating, good lighting, relaxing music and friendly faces; it’s the kind of bar that attracts regulars. The bar staff are also personable and eager to talk about their craft. Locals appreciate the Mai Tai and the Mexican firing squad cocktails. A short list of tap beer is available, too. Happy hour is half off their 100+ cocktails and happens 4.00pm to 5.00pm on weekdays.
1424 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006 +1 713 523 1622
The Community Bar
Ask anyone in Houston where to have excellent bar food and they will direct you to The Community Bar. It’s a casual hole-in-the-wall kind of bar. The menu is so varied, the establishment merits more than one visit. Most customers go on Tuesdays for Steak Night; it’s possibly the best steak in Houston, paired with potatoes, corn or varied sides that include chimichurri and merlot mushrooms. Wednesday is $2 taco night, which makes for an excellent excuse to order a classic paloma, while Thursday is burger night. Patrons also rave about the goat cheese egg rolls, and the funnel cake with Bluebell ice cream.
2703 Smith St, Houston, TX 77006 +1 713 526 1576
Wooster’s is Midtown’s beer garden. It has a spacious patio with plentiful seating and misting fans, where they host food trucks every Sunday. Their own food is delicious as well, and their signature crispy fries accompany every dish. Everything is a good choice, from the po’ boy sandwiches, to the venison tacos. The beer, wine and cocktail list merits preemptive study, as this is not strictly a beer-only place. For a truly Southern selection, ask for the Bayou Bramble, a gin drink flavored with lemon, mint and jalapeño. The care taken in selecting only the best liquor and spirits is probably Wooster’s best characteristic.
3315 Milam St, Houston, TX 77006 +1 713 520 0015
Mongoose Versus Cobra
Mongoose Versus Cobra prides itself in selecting only the best beers from all over the world, which they serve through their custom-made tap to assure quality. There are also excellent cocktails such as the house-made gin and tonic or the spicy Bloody Mary. Their cold cuts and cheese platter is plentiful, and includes apple wedges and walnuts, while their pretzel is said to be the best in the city. The building itself is an interesting sight, as it is mostly covered with ivy. Conscious of Midtown’s parking difficulty, the website offers a handy parking guide that’s good to consult before heading over.
1011 McGowen St, Houston, TX 77002 +1 713 650 6872
Komodo’s is a cozy space (the building is, after all, a residential house), with sofas and a bar that are perfect for conversation. It’s an ambience unique to Midtown, where lounge bars predominate. The patio is good for groups, which often come for Sunday brunch. Prices are low considering the area. Food service days are limited but expanding. This is a town bar where you can drop in to see a few familiar faces while enjoying your favorite cocktail over and over again.
2004 Baldwin St, Houston, TX 77002 +1 713 655 1501
The Continental Club
More than a bar, The Continental Club is a great music venue. It has a full bar with a solid beer selection and well-made cocktails, but what really makes this place special are the events and crowd. Everyone from the bartender to the musicians is here to have fun. ‘The Beetles’, a Beatles cover band, plays every Thursday. Entry is free during the week; a cover is charged on weekends; sometimes you’ll notice a gentleman selling BBQ out of a slow cooker. There’s shuffleboard and two pool tables in the back room, and the patio is a good place for smokers or those looking for a few minutes of silence.
3700 Main St, Houston, TX 77002 +1 713 529 9899
MAX’s Wine Dive
Feel like having great champagne and fried chicken? Try MAX’s Wine Dive. It’s the best place in Houston for gourmet comfort food, which also includes egg sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. All of these may be paired with a choice from their comprehensive wine list. Locals come here for brunch, when they serve crème brûlée French toast, jalapeño grits and mimosas. This is a sister location to the original MAX’s further uptown, but with more patio and indoor space.
214 Fairview St, Ste. 2, Houston, TX 77006 +1 713 528 9200
Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge
This is a bizarre bar and music venue, with charmingly eccentric décor that involves mismatched furniture, twinkle lights and a mannequin mouse band. Dance floors are available inside or at the back patio, which has games and many picnic tables suited for conversation. Local bands and musicians come and represent all styles of music: soul, honky tonk, rock n’ roll, country, you name it. Drinks are affordable and generously sized. Watch out for the Fistful of Soul event every third Friday of the month for a great sampling of Southern soul.
3714 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Leon’s Lounge was purportedly the first bar in Houston, and it’s now back in business after a brief time being closed to the public. It’s a classic space with a tile-top bar and chandeliers, as well as friendly neighborhood bartenders you can chat with. The music is mostly vinyl records that are kept at a conversation-friendly volume. The food menu is replete with late-night favorites, like Wednesday’s steak special, which includes roasted potatoes and a raspberry vinaigrette. Patrons recommend the Green and Red, a sweet cocktail made with bell peppers that is sure to surprise your taste buds.
1006 McGowen St, Houston, TX 77002 +1 713 650 1006